Ford takes driving aids to the next level

More extensive, precise manoeuvres paving way toward automated driving

Published: November 3, 2016, 7:30 PM
Updated: December 7, 2016, 5:45 PM

Ford enhanced cross traffic alert

Everybody’s becoming more familiar with all the driving aids in today’s new vehicles — the things that right now stop you from veering from your lane, or pull out of a parking spot into cross traffic, or even from getting too close to the car in front — but now Ford wants you to get ready for the next level.

Right now, these aids help a driver perform the task of driving better and more safely, but eventually, they will work together to do away with the need for a driver. To do that, crash avoidance can’t rely on just slamming on the brakes to stop a vehicle because sometimes that isn’t enough; sometimes you have to steer around the thing you’re going to hit (a task right now left to the driver, in an impending crash).

Ford evasive steering

“Driver-assist technologies help us all be better drivers because they enhance our ability to see and sense the road around us,” said Scott Lindstrom, manager, driver-assist and active safety at Ford. “Ford’s investment in research and development is paying off by accelerating innovation to expand our portfolio of driver-assist technologies that deliver functionality and performance that customers will value.”

Among the driving aids on current vehicles are adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind spot warning, adaptive high beam assist, and parking assist, to name a few. Among the features in development are the aforementioned evasive steering, and wrong-way warning, both of which are expected on new Ford vehicles within two years.

Evasive steering is designed to help a car steer around slowing or stopped vehicles ahead, at both highway and city speeds. The driving aid uses radar and cameras. When it detects a sudden change in traffic ahead, the system will help a driver steer around a vehicle, provided the driver initiates the evasive driving manoeuvre, if it detects there is not enough space to avoid a crash by simply stopping.

Wrong way alert technology uses a windshield mounted camera and information from the on-board navigation system to detect if the driver is driving against traffic and then send out visual and auditory warnings.

Drivers are already familiar with the Ford parking assist system that parallel parks a car at the push of a button, doing all the steering while the driver uses the brake and accelerator pedals and changes gears, but a new Ford system also does the gear changes. It also works in reverse to easily exit a parking space both for parallel and perpendicular parking manoeuvres.

“Parking is one of the most stressful experiences behind the wheel, and drivers struggling to find suitable parking spaces in urban areas can impact traffic flow,” said Dirk Gunia, supervisor, driver-assist electronics, Ford of Europe. “Technologies like enhanced active park assist will help drivers feel confident about parking in spaces they might otherwise consider too small.”

Ford Wrong Way Alert

Cross traffic alert has been enhanced with the ability to automatically stop the vehicle if the driver does not respond to visual and audio warnings (0other makers already have this technology on their vehicles), while wide-angle rearview cameras allow the driver to see partially around obstacles alongside the parked vehicle (Ford already has a similar camera on the front of some vehicles).

Other new technologies in development are infrared cameras to help detect pedestrians, cyclists and animals in low light scenarios, advanced front lighting that widens the headlight beam at intersections and roundabouts to provide side lighting, and traffic jam assist that keeps a vehicle centred in its lane in stop-and-go conditions.